The entire social safety net is struggling under current budget limitations.
The entire social safety net is struggling under current budget limitations.Seniors, the disabled, the unemployed, health and mental health services, public safety, etc. … but it feels like the school board doesn’t care about that. They want to sue the state for a bigger piece of the pie because they say recent budget shortfalls have sent funding for schools to “catastrophic” low levels. While they scream for a bigger piece of a smaller pie, they effectively declare “all other social services be damned” because their more is everyone else’s less.It’s time to stand up to the schoolyard bully and look at the other side of the story! Examining actual figures from the Kansas Department of Education, let’s investigate the reality of their “catastrophe” claims. K-12 funding in 2004 was $2.165 billion. Recent “catastrophic” cuts by Gov. Mark Parkinson put current K-12 at $3.05 billion (estimate.) Bottom line: It’s less than it was in 2009 but we still give schools almost $1 billion more than in 2004.They say they just can’t fund a good education with this budget, but look deeper: Kansas’ expenditures per student lead the region at $11,289! This puts Kansas’ spending 34 percent above Oklahoma ($8,420), 19 percent above Missouri ($9,492), 11 percent above Nebraska ($10,151) and 9 percent above Colorado ($10,360). Of the contiguous states, only three states west of the Mississippi spend more per pupil than Kansas! And there’s no place to cut, so they’re suing you and me for more?Let’s look at another area. Kansas teachers are some of the most supervised in the region with an average of 15 teachers per non-classroom supervisor. Iowa, my wife’s home state, gets more money into the classroom than any in the region - with 24 teachers per non-classroom supervisor. If Kansas had the same supervisor-to-teacher ratio as Iowa, we would have 882 fewer supervisors in the state. At a salary cost of just $50,000, the state could save $53 million a year — but it’s really much more than that: Teachers are $50K-ish. Principals $80K-ish. Superintendents $100K-plus (ours is $130,242.) And there’s no place to cut, so they’re suing you and me for more?Instead of threatening classroom teachers they should ask how many non-classroom supervisors are necessary. Iowa is doing fine with almost half as many. But it’s always more, more, more for the schoolyard bully — when everyone else in the social services needs to share the pie, too. Since 2004, Kansas has added seven superintendents, 18 administrative assistants, 23 principals, 52 assistant principals, 68 supervisor/coordinators, 63 specialists, 100 nurses, 67 social workers and 140 specialist teachers. There were 1,387 more added in the “Other” category! All for about the same amount of students over time.Finally, the state offers free auditing for any state agency desiring to find ways to save money. To date, four of the 293 school districts have requested the free audit. Yet how many are signed up to sue the state? That strikes me as terribly insincere. Feel hoodwinked?I’m so glad one of our school board members is standing her ground. It’s time for more to wake up and see how selfish it really is and start being good team players with the rest of us — all the more in a time of fiscal crisis when the needs of other state funded services is greater than ever. Timothy Conner, who describes himself as a “concerned citizen for truly fair funding of all social services,” resides in Newton.